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COLUMN: Shopping for the planet

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

During a time when Columbia residents are worried about "secret" deals made by the city, county, REDI and Chamber of Commerce to lure big businesses into town, we tend to forget about the little guys and gals creating new wealth and jobs.

Meet Arianna Parsons. Young, living day-to-day, borrowing her mother's car because it has gas and seeking to take over the world of Internet marketing, starting right here in the middle of Middle America.

I have no financial or personal interest in Arianna's ventures. It is her enthusiasm that won me over.

Her venture is My Green Cities, LLC, a "Sustainable Lifestyle Application." Yes, it did take me a while to understand what she wants to do; after all, I am over 30 years old. However, this is not a business focused on the X, Y and Z generations. It is for all who want to fix our small planet, one shopping trip at a time.

MyGreenCities is an iPhone application that allows the user to find local businesses using a filtering system. During her visit to the Muleskinners luncheon on Friday, Arianna explained that the goal is simple. If a customer wants, for example, to find a local restaurant that serves local produce, recycles and is near the MKT Trail, the app will locate restaurants using the iPhone's internal GPS. Want to add sushi? Sure.

"The My Green Cities app is designed to match consumers and independent businesses on issues of sustainability and social awareness," said Arianna. "We will not deal in political or religious issues."

The app's primary focus is on independent (read: locally owned and operated) businesses that practice environmental sustainability. More than 60 Boone County businesses have signed up to use the site, which goes live in mid-September, for marketing.

Not bad for a dreamer who has taken a loan out on her car to get started.

To be accepted, a business must complete an online application and a visit to verify the company's sustainability policies, such as if they are recycling, composting, using renewable materials, donating to local causes and the list goes on. If the business meets the gold standard of social awareness, it receives the coveted Gold Star rating from My Green Cities. Finally, customers will be able to verify the information.

Today, Arianna has only one employee, herself, but this does not dampen her enthusiasm, her vision and her wanting to pay back the loan on her car. Columbia is a test city, and she plans to expand nationally. Understanding that not everyone owns an iPhone, there are plans to develop the application for Blackberries, Androids and other smart phones.

Arianna's enthusiasm makes this project exciting. She worked hard to slow down her presentation at the luncheon, staying on target and not wandering into areas that may be too technical for the audience. In fact, she was bouncing as she talked about her baby. That's excitement.

But wait! There's more! (Will someone please resurrect Billy Mays?)

As if she is not busy enough. Arianna's experience demonstrates how hard it is to get seed money for a new enterprise. Who wants to back a 20-something college grad with no real business experience and no assets? Coming to the rescue, Arianna's newest dream, CoMoRoLo - Columbia Missouri micro-loans.

This is a citizen co-op to provide funding, up to $500, "for art and community-related projects as well as new enterprises." The money is not to be used for capital campaigns, but to get the business off the ground. Interested? The first meeting of CoMoRoLo will be Thursday, Aug. 19, at Mojo's from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Your small donation into the pot just may be the seed money for the next Virgin Galactic. Or your own dream.

My Green Cities is one of those grassroots, entrepreneurial projects that will keep the economy moving forward. We need to recognize more people like Arianna Parsons in the Columbia business community. We need to recognize the imaginations and spirits of those who have a dream and are willing to risk it all. Good luck, Arianna, wherever your ventures take you.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.


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